The debate over marriage equality in Britain’s House of Commons earlier this week took on some of the rancour of the debate here in the Colonies, exposing a “nest of bigots” in Parliament, as a columnist for The Guardian put it.
In the end, however, the House voted overwhelmingly to approve the bill legalizing same sex marriage — at least in part because of an impassioned speech by MP David Lammy, who studied law at Harvard, and who compared Britain’s current civil unions with America’s “separate but equal” laws in the Jim Crow era:
A member of parliament has given an impassioned argument for marriage equality in the House of Commons today.
David Lammy, a black Labour MP, said the ‘Separate but Equal’ argument anti-gay marriage people use is flawed.
He said: ‘Let me speak frankly. “Separate but equal” is a fraud.
‘Separate but equal is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.
‘Separate but equal is the motif that determined that black and white could not possibly drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table or use the same toilets.
‘Separate but equal are the words that justified sending black children to different schools from their white peers – schools that would fail them and condemn them to a life of poverty.’
He continued: ‘It is an excerpt from the phrasebook of the segregationists and the racists.
‘It is the same statement, the same ideas and the same delusion that we borrowed in this country to say that women could vote – but not until they were 30.
‘It is the same naivety that gave made my dad a citizen in 1956 but refused to condemn the landlords that proclaimed “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs”.
‘It entrenched who we were, who our friends could be and what our lives could become.’
Lammy added: ‘This was not “separate but equal” but “separate and discriminated”, “separate and oppressed”, “separate and browbeaten”, “separate and subjugated”.
‘Separate is not equal, so let us be rid of it.’
He said we live in a society where 20,000 homophobic crimes take place each year, where 800,000 people have witnessed homophobic bullying at work in the last five years.
‘I am a Christian, I go to mass,’ Lammy said. ‘Those on the extremes of our faith have poisoned an important debate with references to polygamy and bestiality.
‘The Jesus I know was born a refugee, illegitimate, with a death warrant on his name in a barn amongst animals. He would stand up for minorities. That is why it is right for those of religious conviction to vote for this bill.’
On MSNBC’s “The Last Word” last night, Lawrence O’Donnell connected the dots between Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment for being gay in 1895 to the historic vote on gay marriage in the House of Commons yesterday.